Edinburgh: I Think I'm in Love.
Edinburgh was not in our original travel plans, but somehow we decided on stop there between London and Dublin. Instead of taking the train, we rented a car so we could get there faster and see more of the countryside. Keep in mind that everything is opposite when it comes to driving in the UK. Apparently, my dad had been pretty worked up about this and the whole driving on the other side of the car and road was an unforgettable experience, to say the least.
The drive north through the countryside boasted bright green, rippled hills full of scattered sheep and cows, farms and houses. Towns hidden in the hills would start and then drop off just as suddenly. I, along with my mom and sister, would "oh" and "ahh" through each and, in one, my sister said, "You could write the next best novel here." I wholeheartedly agree. The tiny Scotland towns are quaint and secluded, and dotting their landscapes are tiny stone cottages topped with chimneys puffing smoke, even in May. I can just imagine curling up next to a window, warmth coming from the fireplace and a mug of coffee, empty pages before me and pen in hand. Places like these seem good for the soul, an incubator for imagination. At some point in my life, I would like to spend at least six months in Scotland, maybe even Edinburgh.
Which brings me to this lovely city. We got in around 9:00, and even though the sun had gone down, light lingers until about 9:30 or 10:00 this time of year. I got glimpses of the countless cathedrals that grace almost every other streets and I knew I wouldn't want to leave. The next day, the weather was cold and rainy but we decided to go out anyway, since we only had two days in the city. It was quite frustrating for my family at first, walking in the rain. I wore slip-on shoes with no socks, but it was my camera equipment I was most worried about. As long as it stayed dry, I could care less if my feet or head got wet. Plus, I felt like we were getting a true Edinburgh experience, being christened by the ever-present mist that seems to float through the air.
Although quite chilly and dreary on our first day (55 degrees, fog, rain), the city was just so darn charming that it was hard not to fall in love. A castle sits high on an dead volcano, and from behind its stone fortresses, so many steeples can be seen rising above rows upon rows of old stone buildings and intricate architectural details. Around every corner is some stately-looking building and very often either the street or sidewalk is cobbled.
Even stopping at a local cafe for food had its charm. Bent against the cold, umbrellas over our heads, we finally piled into the first place that looked good (fish and chips!), like we were finding shelter from a storm. It had the same feel as a snow day, when you come in from the cold to cuddle up with a bowl of soup before heading back out. Of course, the weather wasn't as bad as that or as cold as snow, but you get the idea.
It just had such an old world feel. And the whole atmosphere was set to the tune of bagpipes sweetly whining throughout the streets. Of course, we were in an area with a lot attractions so the bagpipes were there to cater to the tourists, but the music just added to the experience, giving sound to the Scottish heritage. If I carried money on me, I would have thrown it at all the local musicians, whether they were playing bagpipes or guitar, which many were,as well. One young man was strumming Mumford & Sons songs, which is right down my alley. Then there was this group of three, all playing strange, organic-looking instruments, playing some kind of Celtic folk maybe. Loved it! I don't feel right about photographing people in their art for the sake of mine without giving something in return, so I never got photos of them. But I did get a chance to buy some local art, one from a man who was creating small watercolor paintings on the street. I love supporting local artists and, even better, coming home with an authentic part of the city.
Much to my family's dismay, Edinburgh is full of hills and steps. On our second day, when the weather was 55 and sunny (football weather!), we climbed another mound in the middle of the city and it was a mini workout, which I welcomed-- I'm ready to start making healthy decisions again! Plus, we all know how much I truly love walking through cities. From the top, we could see Holyroodhouse Castle, which we toured earlier in the day and is the official residence of the Queen when she stays in Scotland. Of course, all of the other wonderful things about the city were visible from so high, and all were framed by these lovely yellow flowers. Seriously, it just keeps getting better! Charming town, beautiful countryside, and the coast only miles away... What more could you ask for?
I really don't think I can fully explain how wonderful this city is, but I think it's clear: I am in love. I only hope that I will be back there someday! Maybe for longer than a week. :)